Walking: The Key to Reducing Senior Hospital Readmissions?

Among recent studies conducted in a quest to reduce hospital readmissions among senior patients, a new study shows part of the answer may be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. 

While not found to have a direct cause-and-effect relationship, the study indicates that simply walking around could help older adults lessen their chances of a return visit after being admitted to a hospital for the first time. 

Outfitting 111 adults aged 65 and older with ankle-bound “step activity monitors,” researchers of Mobility After Hospital Discharge as a Marker for 30-Day Readmission were able to track seniors’ mobility during their hospital stays.

The pager-sized device was able to count every step an individual took during hospitalization and for a week after discharge.

“We’re using activity here as a biomarker, similar to the way you might use blood pressure,” said the study’s lead author Steve R. Fisher, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Of the 111 adults surveyed, the study found 13 were readmitted within 30 days of discharge, or 11.7% of total participants.

There was also a significant association between the average amount of daily steps taken after discharge and 30-day readmission.

Average daily steps were the strongest predictor among known readmission risk factors, the study notes, as the least active participants post-discharge were more likely to be readmitted and have longer hospital stays.

“While we can’t say whether activity is a cause or effect in these cases, we can use it as a marker to tell us whether a person is at high risk and we need to intervene,” Fisher said.

Geriatricians want to reduce readmissions among the elderly because hospitalizations can sometimes endanger their health by reducing activity levels, researchers note. 

Monitoring seniors’ mobility during and post-hospitalization can be a similar precaution as patients who suffer congestive heart failure, suggests Fisher, as these patients receive a follow-up call from a nurse during their first week home.

“This is the same kind of principle,” he writes. “We want to know how much people are moving around, because we want to know whether they’re going downhill.”

Read an abstract of the study.

Written by Jason Oliva

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